LOUISVILLE — It says something about the state of Mine That Bird's career that the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner was fortunate just to get into a race in this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships.
If the gelded son of Birdstone can't showcase some of his old form in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, his appearance could serve as a swan song.
Since his upset win in the Derby in May last year, Mine That Bird has failed to find the winner's circle in eight starts, and he hasn't hit the board since running third in the Grade II West Virginia Derby in August 2009.
Earlier this year, Mine That Bird was transferred from trainer Chip Woolley to the barn of Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, but the shift hasn't produced better results. The 4-year-old appears to be in peak condition, but he has been beaten by a total of 411/2 lengths in his three losses this year, including a seventh-place finish in the Grade I Woodward Stakes on Sept. 4.
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"He's doing great physically. He has never looked better, his hair coat, his weight, his soundness. But mentally, I don't know if I have him," said Lukas, who has saddled a record 18 winners of Breeders' Cup races. "I think those races last year were hard on him, and it took something off. But he's been working well and real genuine in the mornings."
The Breeders' Cup Classic's 11/4-mile distance might have been where Mine That Bird is best suited, but he would have been thrown to the wolves in a field that includes Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road, and Lookin At Lucky.
Lukas said he hopes the Churchill surface is what Mine That Bird needs to get back on track. And the Dirt Mile is a wide-open race, so a big effort next Saturday could go a long way toward extending the horse's career.
"I don't think they're going to run him much more if he doesn't do well," Lukas said of owners Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach. "I think if he runs 1-2-3, they'll keep going. But if he doesn't, they're in a position where he might be done."
Rogue Romance in Juvenile
Catesby Clay's Runnymede Farm announced Friday that it will enter its homebred Rogue Romance, winner of the Grade III Bourbon Stakes at Keene land, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6 rather than in the Juvenile Turf.
The son of Smarty Jones has won two of his three starts, all on turf, but the 11⁄16-mile distance of the Juvenile compared with the 1-mile Juvenile Turf was considered a better fit for the Ken McPeek-trained colt.
"Rogue Romance's breeding and his training during the summer over the main track at Saratoga indicate he will perform well on the dirt," Runnymede General Manager Martin O'Dowd said. "He's bred top and bottom for it. His talent is what has propelled him to his success on the turf."
Julien Leparoux will have the mount aboard Rogue Romance.
Few work on Friday
Only a few expected Breeders' Cup horses worked at Churchill Downs Friday morning.
Sprint contender Cash Refund covered 5 furlongs in company in 1:00.20, Soundwave, who is being pointed toward the Juvenile Fillies, drilled 5 furlongs in 1:03, and Juvenile Turf contender Major Gain covered 6 furlongs on the turf in 1:17.20.